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Training writing skills: A cognitive developmental perspective

Ronald T. Kellogg
Saint Louis University | USA

Abstract: Writing skills typically develop over a course of more than two decades as a child matures and learns the craft of composition through late adolescence and into early adulthood. The novice writer progresses from a stage of knowledge-telling to a stage of knowledgetransforming characteristic of adult writers. Professional writers advance further to an expert stage of knowledge-crafting in which representations of the author's planned content, the text itself, and the prospective reader's interpretation of the text are routinely manipulated in working memory. Knowledge-transforming, and especially knowledge-crafting, arguably occur only when sufficient executive attention is available to provide a high degree of cognitive control over the maintenance of multiple representations of the text as well as planning conceptual content, generating text, and reviewing content and text. Because executive attention is limited in capacity, such control depends on reducing the working memory demands of these writing processes through maturation and learning. It is suggested that students might best learn writing skills through cognitive apprenticeship training programs that emphasize deliberate practice. Keywords: writing skills, professional writers, cognitive development, working memory, training

Kellogg, R.T. (2008). Training writing skills: A cognitive developmental perspective. Journal of writing research, 1(1), 1-26 Contact and copyright: Earli | Ronald T. Kellogg, Department of Psychology, Saint Louis University, 211 North Grand Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63103, USA [kelloggr@slu.edu]

RONALD T. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 2

Learning how to write a coherent, effective text is a difficult and protracted achievement of cognitive development that contrasts sharply with the acquisition of speech. By the age of 5, spoken language is normally highly developed with a working vocabulary of several thousand words and an ability to comprehend and produce grammatical sentences. Although the specific contribution of a genetic predisposition for language learning is unsettled, it is apparent that speech acquisition is a natural part of early human development. Literacy, on the other hand, is a purely cultural achievement that may never be learned at all. Reading and writing are partly mediated by the phonological speech system, but an independent orthographic system must also be learned. Writing an extended text at an advanced level involves not just the language system. It poses significant challenges to our cognitive systems for memory and thinking as well. Indeed, writers can put to use virtually everything they have learned and stored away in long-term memory. But they can only do so if their knowledge is accessible, either by rapidly retrieving it from long-term memory or by actively maintaining it in short-term working memory. Thinking is so closely linked to writing, at least in mature adults, that the two are practically twins. Individuals who write well are seen as substantive thinkers, for example. The composition of extended texts is widely recognized as a form of problem solving. The problem of content - what to say - and the problem of rhetoric-how to say it - consumes the writer’s attention and other resources of working memory. All writers must make decisions about their texts and at least argumentative texts call upon their reasoning skills as well. Finally, the written text serves as external form of memory that others can read and reflect upon, providing a scaffold for thinking and writing in the historical development of a literate culture. Learning how to compose an effective extended text, therefore, should be conceived as a task similar to acquiring expertise in related culturally acquired domains. It is not merely an extension of our apparent biological predisposition to acquire spoken language. Rather, it is more similar to learning how to type - which is in fact one aspect of composition, as a common means of motor output. Or, it is similar to learning how to play chess - which is another planning intensive task similar to composition in its demands on thinking and memory. Or, it is similar to learning how to play a musical instrument - which demands mastery of both mechanical skills and creative production. Becoming an expert typist, chess player, or, say, violinist, requires a minimum of 10 years of intensive learning and strong motivation to improve. The very best violinists, for example, have accumulated more than 10,000 hours in solitary practice, whereas lesser experts (7,500 hours), least accomplished experts (5,000), and amateurs (1,500) have devoted proportionally less time to self-improvement (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993). The theme of this paper is that learning to become an accomplished writer is parallel to becoming an expert in other complex cognitive domains. It appears to require more than two decades of maturation, instruction, and training. The central goal is to gain executive control over cognitive processes so that one can respond adaptively

to (2) the intermediate stage of transforming what one knows for the author's benefit. it will be argued. The focus here is on the equal imperative to train writers so that they can retrieve and use what they know during composition. we should look to the principles of cognitive apprenticeship. Third. as illustrated in Figure 1. Executive attention must not only be given to language generation. and coordinating all three processes. The first two knowledge-telling and knowledge-transforming .that would seem paradoxical in light of the present arguments. These are considered before concluding the paper. occurs by learning domain-specific knowledge that can be rapidly retrieved from long-term memory rather than held in short-term working memory and by automating to some degree the basic writing processes. The objectives of the present paper are. with a focus on deliberate practice. Achieving the necessary cognitive control can only occur by reducing the demands on the central executive. just as a concert violinist or grand master in chess must do. but also be available for planning ideas.3 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH to the specific needs of the task at hand. as a child matures and learns the craft of composition through late adolescence and into early adulthood. to sketch the broad outlines of how writing skill develops across three stages. it is suggested that the primary constraint on progression through these stages is the limited capacity of the central executive of working memory. Fourth. and to (3) the final stage of crafting what one knows for the reader's benefit. The first two stages are well-established by developmental research . attention must be given to maintaining multiple representations of the text in working memory. 1. Development of writing skills The development of written composition skills are conceived here as progressing through three stages. particularly with an emphasize on deliberate practice. instruction. A third stage knowledge crafting .are well documented. 1994). but important for understanding expert or professional levels of writing skill. it remains inert during composition and unable to yield the desired fluency and quality of writing. in developing interventions that train as well as instruct writers. Accordingly. Second. We know that many different types of knowledge related to text content and discourse structure must be available in long-term memory. At the same time. first. reviewing ideas. and training to advance from (1) the beginner's stage of using writing to tell what one knows.is more speculative. professional writers . Demand reduction. there are two facts literary precocity and working memory decline in older. the implications of these views for writing education will be discussed. Without knowledge being accessible and creatively applied by the writer. It takes at least two decades of maturation. as dictated by the knowledge-use principle (Kellogg. These reductions can perhaps best be achieved using the training methods of cognitive apprenticeship. We know that instruction across disciplines and writing instruction in particular must necessarily impart such knowledge.

say. Macro-stages in the cognitive development of writing skill. language generation. The microchanges underlying the gradual improvement that drive the transition to the next macro-stage fall beyond the scope of the present article. But. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 4 and typically mastered by advanced high school and college students (Bereiter & Scardamalia. plus the mental representations that must be generated and held in working memory. Knowledge-Telling Knowledge-Transforming idea Knowledge-Crafting •Planning retrieval limited to •Limited interaction of planning and translating. Writing skill is shown as continuously improving as a function of practice. it is assumed that both the basic writing processes of planning. 1987). . and reviewing. and reviewing. •Interaction of planning. 2006). compared with persuasive texts.RONALD T. in general. translating. As a consequence of the task specificity. with minimal Writing Skill reviewing. and reviewing •Reviewing primarily of author’s •Reviewing of both author and text representations. narrative texts. translating. The three stages shown in Figure 1 are intended to demarcate three macro-stages of writing development. The third is seldom discussed. a child might be operating at a more advanced stage in writing. perhaps because it characterizes only mature adults who aim to become skilled professional writers (Kellogg. undergo continuous developmental changes through maturation and learning within specific writing tasks. as is typical for perceptual-motor and cognitive skills in general. of planning. Author Text Author Reader Text •Interaction Author representation. assuming these are most practiced. 10 Years of Practice 20 Figure 1.

1993). Yet. As shown in Figure 1. for expert writers. the reader representation is not yet routinely entered into the interaction in working memory until the stage of knowledge-crafting. if it cannot be maintained adequately in working memory. It must first become sufficiently elaborate and stable to maintain and working memory resources must be available to coordinate all three representations. and the imagined reader’s interpretation of the text. then. Gradual gains in writing skill within the stage of knowledge-telling across several years of writing experience would stem from growth in the child's ability to represent the text's literal meaning. the text. not only are the basic processes of planning. the words of the text itself. Thus. The key point made here is the heavy demands made on working memory by planning. word choices in language generation at the moment of transcription. and reviewing processes limit not only the coordination of these basic cognitive processes. . 6 years of age might have a only partial representation of how the text actually reads in comparison to a much richer representation of his or her own ideas. Although such a developing writer’s audience awareness might well guide. during earlier stages of a writer's development. the writer is able to hold in mind the author’s ideas. and the reader must be held in the storage components of working memory and kept active by allocating attention to them (Traxler & Gernsbacher. sentence generation. the text representation is both sufficiently detailed and stable enough to maintain in working memory to permit an interaction between the author and text representations. By contrast. the stage of knowledge-telling is dominated by the author's representation. but this reader representation may be too unstable to hold in working memory. The author's ideas. a 12 year old might be aware of the prospective reader. By the stage of knowledge-transforming. Author. say. Similarly. but so are three alternative representations of content. text. but also the maintenance and use of the three distinct representations underlying the composition of expert writers. sentence generation. the reader representation would not be available for reviewing the text. A young child of. say. and the interpretations of an imagined reader may be quite different mental representations.5 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH 2. and reviewing juggled successfully. comprehension of what the text currently says. and reader representations In the most advanced stage of knowledge-crafting. the text and reader representations may be either relatively impoverished or sufficiently detailed but not adequately maintained in working memory during text composition. The representations of the author.

possesses a stable text representation) before he or she can imagine how the text would read to another person (i. It is further assumed that these representations must be constructed by the writer in a stable form before he or she can hold these representations in working memory and make use of them in planning and reviewing. and reviewing. This helps them to plan what they need to say or write to communicate their ideas. It implies an interaction between the author's representation of ideas and the text representation itself. it is proposed here that the three representations of the author.1 Knowledge-telling The initial stage of knowledge-telling consists of creating or retrieving what the author wants to say and then generating a text to say it.. The text produced is essentially a restatement of their thoughts. 1990. it would appear that the writer's representation of what the text actually says to him or her and. Cross. to an even greater degree. What the author says feeds back on what the author knows in a way not observed in knowledge-telling. The verbal protocols collected by Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) of children clearly document the essential focus on the author’s representation rather than the text and reader representations. & Watson.e.RONALD T.. By about the age of 4. The young author focuses on his or her thoughts not on how the text itself reads. 2.e. Specifically. Reviewing the text or even ideas still in the writer's mind can trigger additional planning and . The author is not entirely egocentric in knowledge-telling and can begin to take into account the reader's needs. What is known empirically is that writers operating at the initial knowledge-telling stage of development clearly struggle with understanding what the text actually says. 2001). and reader are not fully accessible in working memory until the most advanced stage of knowledge-crafting is achieved. Wellman. Extending McCutchen's (1996) analysis of how working memory limitations constrain planning. text. how the prospective reader would interpret the text as written are impoverished early on in writing acquisition. However. As the child develops during middle childhood and adolescence. as those texts would appear to prospective readers. The assumption made here is that the author must first be able to comprehend what the text actually says at a given point in the composition (i.2 Knowledge-transforming The second stage of knowledge-transforming involves changing what the author wants to say as a result of generating the text. gradually become richer and more useful to the composer. children have acquired a theory of mind that allows them to take another's perspective (Wellman. by the time children are beginning to write they realize that another person's thoughts about the world may differ from their own. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 6 2. acquire a reader representation). As Beal (1996) observed. language generation. and then the reader representation. young writers who compose by telling their knowledge have trouble seeing the literal meaning of their texts. first the text representation.

Verbal protocols of writers at the stage of knowledgetransforming reveal extensive interactions among planning. but it can also become an occasion for re-thinking afresh the author's ideas (Hayes. and reviewing in this stage of development (Bereiter & Scardamalia. Lexical substitutions predominated rather than semantic changes. cognitive. For example. The text actually produced is a greatly condensed version of the author’s thought processes. Myhill and Jones (2007) reported that students aged 14 to 16 can . In reading the text. 2. the act of writing becomes a way of actively constituting knowledge representations in long-term memory (Galbraith. As Sommers (1980. Notice that this stage now involves modeling not just the reader's view of the writer's message but also the reader's interpretation of the text itself. The students seemed to view their assignment primarily as an exercise in knowledge telling and did not “see revision as an activity in which they modify and develop perspectives and ideas…” (p. language generation. 2004). p. In an early study of expert versus novice differences in writers. it is clear that the writer can maintain and use both the both the author and text representations. The writer tries to anticipate different ways that the reader might interpret the text and takes these into account in revising it. Sommers (1980) documented that professional writers routinely and spontaneously revise their texts extensively and globally. college freshmen made changes primarily in the vocabulary used to express their thoughts.3 Knowledge-crafting The third stage characterizes the progression to professional expertise in writing. The writer must maintain and manipulate in working memory a representation of the text that might be constructed by an imagined reader as well as the author and text representations. making deep structural changes. 385) observed in journalists. 1999) rather than simply retrieving them as in knowledge-telling. and textual competencies” and may well account for most of the difficulties that children experience with revision. the writer shapes what to say and how to say it with the potential reader fully in mind. 382). the author builds a representation of what it actually says. text. When the transition to knowledge-transforming is completed. and reader representations “builds on multiple sources of interpersonal. and academics. They express concern for the “form or shape of their argument” as well as “a concern for their readership” (p.” Holliway and McCutchen (2004) stressed that the coordination of the author. At times such reviewing may lead to a state of dissonance between what the text says and what the author actually meant. By contrast.7 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH additional language generation. In knowledge-crafting. let alone a focus on a reader representation. 1987). There seemed to be little interaction between the text and author representation in her sample of college freshmen. During knowledgetransforming. “experienced adult writers imagine a reader (reading their product) whose existence and whose expectations influence their revision process. editors. It is too strong a statement to suggest that adolescents and young adults always fail to make changes in meaning or take into account the needs of the reader as they review. 384).

An alternative interpretation is that. that working memory limitations in holding and manipulating representations of how the reader interprets the text. Tellingly. 1993). the effectiveness of their local-level reviewing. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 8 verbalize such concerns when prompted to comment on their writing processes after a writing session. adolescence. the act of composing a draft and revising it did not demand an intensive discovery of what the author thinks about the topic. Moser. the degree of planning they do. Hatch. and young adulthood. change their focus of attention to the reader’s perspective. though. Miller. It helps to explain. they apparently know how to revise globally as well as locally. when left to their own devices. the fluency of their language generation. Because students can.RONALD T. is a fundamental brake on the writing skill of developing writers throughout childhood. 1996). college students benefit by simply providing them with 8 minutes of instruction to revise globally before they are asked to start a second and final draft of a text (Wallace. In all of these studies. it is unclear from these studies what costs are incurred when limited attention and storage capabilities are focused on the reader representation rather than on the author and text representations. why adolescent writers do not routinely and spontaneously make the kinds of deep structural revisions found in experienced adult writers. However. the task involved writing a text that described a geometric figure to the reader and thus possibly limited the importance of interactions between author and text representations and knowledge-transforming. and the interaction of author and text representations activated in transforming their knowledge about the topic would likely suffer from making global changes in the text a priority. But they typically do not do so in their college writing assignments to avoid shortchanging the time and effort devoted to other necessary processes and representations during composition and subsequent revision. 2004) as well as of college students (Traxler & Gernsbacher. interventions that prompt the writer to “read-as-the-reader” explicitly focus working memory resources on the reader representation. Hayes. As many as half of their sample of 34 students commented on revisions made to improve coherence and add text in addition to avoiding repetition and making it sound better in general. the results of Myhill and Jones (2007) with 13-14 year olds render such an interpretation unlikely. For example. college students invest their available working memory resources as best they can. even young children understand that they must take into account the reader's thoughts as they compose a message in oral and written communication during the first stage of . That is to say. To summarize the studies reviewed here and the argument made. but still fail to maintain the reader representation needed in making deep structural changes to the text. These are effective in th th improving the revising activities of 5 and 9 graders (Holliway & McCutchen. It is suggested. for example. while simultaneously managing the author and text representations. & Silk. Although this could be interpreted to mean that the students lack the knowledge that revision entails more than local changes. with minimal instruction. as would be necessary in an open-ended persuasive task as opposed to a descriptive task using a limited set of perceptually available stimuli. Finally.

Executive attention. the author is forced to think about and decide what knowledge the reader already knows that need not be made explicit in the text. for example. a product of the writer’s imagination that can play an active role in composition. then.” To effectively interpret the text from the reader's point of view.” Tomlinson (1990) underscored the point that mature scholars absolutely must by necessity represent their audience fully because “those who accept or reject or manuscripts. "the writer must anticipate all the different senses in which any statement can be interpreted and correspondingly clarify meaning and to cover it suitably. and reviews the emerging text. the writer operating at the level of knowledge-crafting engages in extensive revisions at all levels of the text. then. As Ong explained. or. those who hire and fire us” are decidedly real rather than fictional readers. The concept of knowledge-crafting proposed here draws from the work of Walter Ong. is not complete at the end of university or even postgraduate work. being aware of a fictional reader in generating text is different from being able to read the text as it is currently written from another person's perspective. Such domain-specific knowledge may have several beneficial effects for the writer. text. An additional necessary condition is having a sufficiently developed working memory system to coordinate the author. Scientific writers. 1988). worse. in particular. who the major actors are. As Ong (1975) noted. In knowledge-crafting. Yet. generates. must be fully mature and effectively deployed to maintain and manipulate all three of these representations as the writer recursively plans. is characterized by a three-way interaction among representations held in working memory. what the discipline has learned. About 30 years ago. An individual who writes on the job as a professional. By anticipating in detail the responses of readers to an existing text. In contrast to oral communication. the audience for written communication is not actual. . must know “what problems the discipline has addressed. "This knowledge is one of the things that separates the beginning graduate student or even the brilliant undergraduate from the mature scholar. is preoccupied with what the text says in relation to what the writer already knows. Knowledge-crafting. Writing development. even if it is but a part of his or her work. but not sufficient. where it is going.9 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH knowledge-telling. and how all these things contribute” to the writer’s own project (Bazerman. the reader's interpretation of the text must feed back to the way the text reads to the author and to the message the author wishes to convey in the first place. Audience awareness should be regarded as a necessary. but fictional. and reader representations concurrently with relative ease. The author can spontaneously engage in deep conceptual revisions as well as surface revisions to a text to try to make certain that readers see matters the way the author does. Ong (1978) argued that a skilled author creates a fictional audience for the text to understand its meaning from the prospective readers’ point of view. condition for eventually developing the capacity to read and interpret the author's own text from the standpoint of an imagined or fictional reader. but one would be the ability to interpret the text as written thus far from the vantage point of another member of the scientific community.

220). 1988). academic writers know their disciplines deeply enough to be able to anticipate their readers' responses to the text they are composing and revising (Hyland. . what characterizes the knowledge-crafting of expert writers is the capacity to keep in mind how a reader would interpret the text as well as representing the author's ideas and what the text says. Hyland identified the ways that readers are drawn into the text. 2003). the capacity to see the text from the perspective of the reviewer can be put to use during the composition of a first draft rather than delayed until revising an initial effort. From examining 240 published research articles from a variety of disciplines and conducting interviews with authors. It is important to remember that the process of reviewing ideas and text is not limited to the revision phase of composition. They wrote two such texts. The differences in how the audiences were framed were most strikingly illustrated by three of the five writers studied. Both the specific task and the medium or tool used for writing influence the choice of composing strategies (Van Waes & Schellens. if not hostile. It is usually embedded in the composition of a first draft. Regardless of the particular composition strategy employed. The reviewing of ideas alone--perhaps held solely as mental representations or perhaps recorded as visualspatial symbols or brief. it should be noted that even experienced authors vary in the degree to which they explicitly represent their readers in working memory. another expected both audiences to be 'friendly but uninformed' and yet another writer rarely analyzed either of the audiences. more subtly. 1994). thereby leading them to a particular interpretation” (p. The use of the inclusive we or second person pronouns are one way of binding the reader together with the writer. Hyland’s central point is that writers operating at a professional level of expertise are adept at actively crafting reader agreement with their positions. Highly extensive reviewing during pre-writing and drafting characterize the strategy of attempting to produce a perfect rather than a rough first draft (Kellogg. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 10 Advanced level. others jump right in with a very rough draft and revise endlessly. along with planning and language generation.RONALD T. Whereas one interpreted both audiences as "skeptical. Even so. Thus. “to note. 564). or consider something in the text. in its present form. concede. For example. depending on the strategy adopted by the author. Another is the use of personal asides that “appeal more to the readers willingness to following their reasoning” (p. Whereas some use a linear strategy of extensive planning during prewriting before starting a draft. experienced scientists show a wide range of individual composing strategies (Rymer. communicates to the author and to the reader. with one addressed to incoming freshmen and another to an interdisciplinary faculty committee. cryptic verbal notations--an even occur during prewriting before a first draft is undertaken. A third is to employ directives to readers to see matters as the author desires or. Kirsch (1990) asked faculty member to inform readers about the writing program that they teach and to persuade the readers as to the value of freshmen composition. concentrating instead on exploring her topic in depth" (p. 2001). 561).

37) ethnographies that "people who were attracted to writing after childhood may even refer to themselves as 'late bloomers'. chess. translating. The 10 year rule of developing expertise Studies of outstanding performers in music. children have spent 10 years mastering the mechanics of handwriting and spelling. But several years are probably needed to acquire the domain-specific rhetorical skills and practice at crafting knowledge for a specific audience (Rymer. They do so by means of complex interactions among planning. limited executive attention must be allocated to the monitor component instead of to the basic processes of planning. and behavior that sees the writer through the lonely and challenging job of serious composition." Thus. Both of these attributes implies a high degree of self-regulation of cognition. In the case of composition. Even college-educated writers are unlikely to continue the training required to compose like a professional at the level of knowledge crafting. expert writers who have advanced to the stage of knowledge crafting are capable of representing and manipulating three different representations in working memory. and other domains indicate that deliberate practice must continue for a minimum of a decade for an individual to acquire expert standing (Ericsson et al. By the age of 14-16 years. since spoken language and scribbling are developed in preliterate children (Lee & Karmiloff-Smith. Note that Bereiter and Scardamalia (1987) turned to graduate student writing to provide clear illustrations of knowledge-transforming. In terms of the seminal model of text composition proposed by Flower and Hayes (1980).11 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH 3. 4. the clock starts early. although less developed forms of it are certainly evident in the writings of teenagers. p. achieving fluency in written as well as spoken production. . and reviewing that must be coordinated through executive attentional control in working memory. their earliest work in the Norton Anthology of Poetry came at least 10 years after the approximate date that they began reading and writing poetry (Wishbow.. emotion. typewriting. 1988). the text's meaning. biographies of poets have revealed that. the progression from knowledge telling to knowledge crafting depends on training that must continue from childhood well into adulthood. and mastering the telling of knowledge. 1996). 1983). Childhood practice at story writing was so commonly mentioned in Henry's (2000. For example. 1988). Working memory constrains writing development To summarize. generation. It is unknown precisely how long it takes to advance further to knowledge crafting whereby professionals can mentally represent and adeptly process the author's ideas. for the vast majority. and the reader's interpretations of both the author's ideas and the text itself. and reviewing. Approximately a second decade of practice is needed to advance from knowledgetelling to knowledge-transforming.

& Kellogg. & Piolat. and emotional regulation tasks that require the coordination of a large number of cognitive processes. & Goetz. Piolat. reasoning. Writing researchers have frequently hypothesized and documented the critical role of executive attention in managing the composing process. In the neuropsychological literature. Walker. Then. phonological. Interference or slowing in response times to a secondary task measures the degree to which the primary task of writing consumes executive attention (Olive. Verbal working memory maintains representations during the mandatory sub-processes of sentence generation. & Ford. Writing processes show markedly more slowing in response time compared with other kinds of cognitive tasks. images of their referents may be stored in the visualspatial sketchpad (Kellogg. & Piolat. 2006. Kellogg. In Baddeley’s (2001) model of working memory. Kalsbeek and Sykes (1967) found that the need to make decisions about whether to depress a pedal with the right foot or left foot degraded concurrent writing ability. The participant was told to write something interesting. Kealy. 1997). to see the need for training to free the availability of executive attention for the monitor component of the writing model. there is a reduction in sentence length (Ransdell. Although the phonological loop and visual-spatial sketchpad have a role in writing. sentence generating. the length of the sentences generated was shortened and then the grammatical structure was lost. 2005). spatial working memory appears to have a specific role in generating ideas during planning (Galbraith. and reviewing in comparison with the central executive. Interference is calculated by subtracting the time needed to respond to the beep when presented in isolation. namely. generating text. Ford. overall executive functioning is witnessed in planning. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 12 It is important to understand the heavy demands that are placed on working memory. Fayol. One must first reduce the attentional and storage demands of planning ideas.RONALD T. 1999. Similarly. only a single letter. Paivio. As the primary task gradually increased to a maximum speed of rapid decisions and responses. Sadoski. the central executive serves as a supervisory attentional system that controls storage components. they respond to an auditory beep that occurs at random intervals. . Olive. Chenoweth & Hayes. finally. only a single word could be written repeatedly and. 2002. 1994. Olive. it has been argued on theoretical grounds that these storage components are involved in fewer aspects of planning. particularly on the central executive. such as holding six digits in mind. When concrete nouns are used in a sentence. Rapid concurrent decisions also require executive attention and disrupt writing. Levy. and orthographic encoding (Bonin. grammatical. & Gombert. Levy & Marek. such as the phonological loop for verbal representations and the visual-spatial sketchpad for object representations. 2001). & Kellogg. Another way to study the issue is to distract executive attention with a demanding primary task. As a person is writing. 2004). Experiments with this and similar kinds of concurrent primary tasks show that when executive attention is drawn away from sentence generation. and reviewing ideas and text for self-regulation to occur. which was possible only when the primary distracting task was slow and easy to perform.

Largy. McCutchen (1996) reviewed a wide range of evidence demonstrating that planning. It is also well-established that the basic mechanical skills of handwriting and spelling deplete the limited resources of working memory in children. interactions among planning. Neo-Piagetian theorists proposed that the limited capacity of a central. the self-regulation of planning. 1987). Lamaire. Having sufficient executive control over planning. generation and reviewing is plausibly necessary for the production of coherent text. Berninger. a disruption in grammatical encoding (Fayol. Unless children develop sufficient fluency in handwriting (or typing) before the age of 12 or so. 2003). called M-Space activation by Pascual-Leone. seems to echo other important cognitive skills in its dependence on executive functioning.. domain-independent pool of cognitive resources acts as a brake on progression from one stage of development to the next (Pascual-Leone. The transition from pre-operational to formal operational thought. Abbot. Kellogg. 2000) and age-related growth in working memory capacity (McCutchen. 1994. 1985). generating. Vandenberg and Swanson (2007) reported that individual differences in writing ability among high school students are reliably related to central executive capacity. 2004). Scinto (1986) found that the later transition between concrete and formal operations was associated with the emergence of the ability to generate cohesive links in written texts. for example. then their subsequent development of writing skill is weakened substantially. requires growth in this central resource. The rapid emergence of executive strategies in memory and problem solving tasks similarly depends on the growth of centralized attentional resources (Case. translating. and a slowing in word production (Ferreira & Pashler. The writer must hold in mind a representation of what he or she wants to say and a . when concrete thought gives way to the abstract thought of formal operations. it should not be surprising that the availability of executive attention ought to be a major constraint on the development of writing skill. In fact. Moretti et al. and reviewing observed in advanced writers requires available capacity in working memory in several ways. 1996). The primary grades of school is the normal period of time for learning the mechanics of writing to a point of automaticity. Such a relationship was not observed for the phonological loop nor was it found for the visual-spatial sketchpad. Finally. Writing development. Individual differences in writing ability at a given age are also predicted by differences in working memory capacity (Ransdell & Levy. & Whitaker. and reviewing requires mastery of handwriting and spelling (Graham & Harris. 2002). constraining their ability to generate language fluently. In fact. Given these findings with adult writers. To summarize. 1997). and reviewing are each constrained by the limits of working memory in younger compared with older children. Increased executive control appears to be fundamental to the brain changes that occur during the second decade of life (Kuhn. 2006). thus freeing working memory resources for higher order processes (Graham. 1996). generating.13 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH 2002. then.

and . effortless access to domain-specific knowledge in long-term memory. 5. well-timed retrieval from long-term memory is necessary or else the writer's knowledge is inert during composition (Kellogg. 1982). 1994).is able to maintain and manipulate in working memory representations of the author's ideas. and domain-specific knowledge of the topic are among these (Nystrand. An expert. executive attention must be allocated to coordinating and monitoring the transitions from one basic writing process to the next (Hayes and Flower. but here three points are emphasized. Moreover. and (3) reducing the working memory cost of planning. It is not enough to know how to plan or how to write clear sentences. The most important constraint on developing from knowledge-telling to knowledge-transforming. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 14 representation of what the text actually says. (2) reducing the load on working memory by providing rapid. but also executive attention to keep the representations active and to inhibit irrelevant information. Equally important. and possibly then on to knowledge-crafting is the limitations of the central executive component of working memory. Both knowledgecrafting and the intermediate stage of knowledge-transforming require the ability to coordinate complex interactions of planning ideas. is that writers must be able to retrieve their knowledge during composition and creatively apply it to decide what to say in the text and how to say it. Accessibility in working memory or through rapid. and reviewing ideas and text. Writers may know a great deal. if the developing writer is unable to interweave planning and generation in a manner characteristic of mature writers.RONALD T. sentence generation. it is also necessary to maintain a representation of how the imagined reader perceives the text. text generation. A large mental lexicon. and the prospective reader's interpretation of the text. In what ways can the educational process aid the functioning of working memory in the service of writing skills? There are undoubtedly numerous ways. Implications for writing education The implications of these ideas for writing education will be briefly considered next. As a writer progresses further from authorcentered reviewing to reader-centered reviewing. professional writer . 1980). a variety of discourse structures. heightened grammatical competence.operating at the stage of knowledge-crafting . but they cannot use what they know unless multiple representations are maintained in working memory and writing processes are artfully orchestrated. Educational research has carefully documented the extensive range of knowledge that must be available in long-term memory for effective text composition. These basic composing processes must be controlled effectively as well. The required degree of cognitive control in working memory of processes and representations most likely depends on (1) maturation of the executive component of working memory. This requires not only well-developed short-term storage capacity. for example. the text itself. but perhaps less appreciated.

and reviewing. The frontal lobe regions of the brain that support executive functioning mature slowly throughout the decades involved in writing acquisition. The slow maturation of the central executive component of working memory stresses the absolute necessity of reducing the burden placed on it by writing processes.1 Long-Term Working Memory Gaining domain-specific expertise allows the writer to retrieve relevant knowledge from long-term memory at just the right moment. The ability to rely on longterm working memory ought to significantly help writers to manage the composition process (McCutchen. While this is certainly true. Ericsson and Kintsch (1995) called this form of knowledge accessibility long-term working memory and distinguished it from laboriously maintaining information in an active state in short-term working memory. 23-30 years of age. generating.2 Relative Automaticity Another approach is to directly reduce the demands on the central executive by training the writer in planning. seniors in college should know the most about their major field and so should be provided with extensive opportunities to write within the discipline. High-resolution structural magnetic resonance images reveal a higher degree of frontal development in young adults. 5. and reviewing skills. sentence generating. a high degree of domain-specific knowledge about the topic significantly reduces the momentary demands made on executive attention (Kellogg. . Jernigan. For example. There are likely to be multiple ways in which this objective can be achieved and what follows are but a few illustrations. and the perspective of an imagined reader and (2) to coordinate interactions among planning. 1999). Writing about topics that students know well provides a scaffold to support the writers and to allow them to devote a higher degree of executive attention to the juggling of planning. 2001). Indeed. This indirectly helps with the overload on the central executive component of working memory by reducing the occasions on which it is needed. & Toga. writing within the discipline of one’s major field has the added benefit of allowing the writer to free short-term working memory for the task by relying to some extent on long-term working memory. The writing across the curriculum movement has stressed the value of situating writing assignments within the discourse community of a discipline on the grounds that writing is inherently a social act.15 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH reviewing processes so that executive attention can be devoted to managing their deployment. and reviewing. Holmes. These regions quite possibly are needed (1) to maintain simultaneous representations of the author's ideas. the text as written. Thompson. 2000). 5. compared with 12-16 -year olds (Sowell. generating.

When the unorganized notes or sentences are in front of them during final draft composition. Establishing exactly what they strategies are. Preparing an outline during prewriting helps writers to focus on text generation in producing a first draft (Kellogg. and reviewing each become relatively automatic. as long as these initial unorganized notes or sentences are not available to the writer in preparing a final draft. There is still an interaction among planning. 1988). it is certainly possible to . but relatively more time is devoted to the generating sentences and cohesive links among them when the macrostructure of the text has been sketched out in the form of a hierarchical structure. but nevertheless fail to do so when writing their own texts and left to their own devices (Bartlett. 4 . writers perhaps divide their attention among planning. 2006) also found that multiple writing opportunities and post-composition recall of their own writing processes.RONALD T. 1990). generation. A later study showed that the benefits of outlining were substantially reduced when writers had already developed their thinking about the specific topic. prompted by a computer-based replay of their keystrokes. it is possible to prompt revisions even in young students operating at the rd th th first stage of knowledge-telling. and under what circumstances is an important goal for composition research. One can also train writers so that planning. generation. and unavailable to conscious awareness.as a way of constituting knowledge through the act of writing in Galbraith's terms. and reviewing after outlining first. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 16 For example. Similarly. Lindgren and Sullivan. knowledge that could be retrieved from long-term working memory rather than computed and stored in working memory during composition (Kellogg. 1982). Just generating text without any planning in advance can also benefit a writer. for whom. they perhaps focus more on planning and text generation with less effort given to reviewing what had been produced earlier. By withdrawing these materials. unintentional. and 5 grade students (ages 8-10) increase the amount and depth of their revisions when reviewing is delayed rather than immediate. Chanquoy (2001) reported that 3 . Galbraith and Torrance (2004) replicated and extended these earlier findings by showing that organized notes aid writing regardless of whether or not these notes are available in preparing a final draft of the text. enhanced conceptual as well as surface level revisions. McCutchen (1988) made the important point that these processes are too complex to become automatic in the strict sense of becoming effortless. In L2 writers 13-14 years of age. one can train writers to use strategies that focus effort on a single process at a given moment in time. The time delay could facilitate the construction of a reader representation that accurately captures what the text literally says as the students re-read what they had written earlier. Success with such scaffolds for revision in L2 writers certainly indicates their potential value in developing L1 writers as well. These young writers appear to be capable of correcting ambiguities in texts written by others. (2003. Still. The essential point is that we should teach developing writers the specific strategies that can effectively reduce the momentary demands of composition. and reviewing. text generation. In this case writers use language generation as a planning device .

namely. 1983) or into retrieval from long-term memory as opposed to computation in working memory (Logan. For example. 1993). fluently generate sentences and cohesive links among them. Distinguished novelists. As decades of practice take effect. 1996. Norman Mailer (2003. but the concept of deliberate practice is far more interesting and not well understood in the context of writing. (3) practice tasks that are within reach of the individual's current level of ability.4 Deliberate Practice A central factor in the development of expert performance across a wide range of both physical and cognitive task domains is the use of deliberate practice (Ericsson. I must have written more than a half a million words before I came to the Naked and the Dead. That practice makes perfect is so well known as to be a cliché. underscores the value of observing rather than doing. The tradition of apprenticeship has stressed the importance of social learning from a mentor. the writer's productivity gains in a nonlinear fashion. 1988)." The effects of deliberate practice can be seen in the cumulative productive of authors. the development of effective writing skill is impossible without reducing these relative demands. according to the argument advanced here. 1989. and review the plans and text from the perspective of both the author and the imagined reader (Kellogg. A cognitive apprenticeship in writing. (4) feedback that provides knowledge of results. p. 1994) and the revision of subject-verb agreement errors that progresses from a slow. Hupet. p. Largy. Practice is the means for doing so under either of these models.3 Training Methods If we think training a writer. blend well in effective training. learning by observing. then what interventions are likely to be successful? One is the tried and true method of learning by doing. Dédévan. both observing and doing are essential to the learning of complex skills and the two traditions. much like a musician or an athlete is trained. (2) intrinsic motivation to engage in the task. The best documented cases with respect to writing skill are the relative automatization of transcription as writers master handwriting and spelling (McCutchen. credit their success to the use of deliberate practice. 1994). effortful algorithm to a rapid automatic check (Fayol. then. for example. As I once calculated. 14) said: " I learned to write by writing. Isaac Asimov's wrote far more books per year in his later years as . & Hupet.17 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH reduce the relative effort required to plan ideas and their organizational structure. & Largy. and (5) high levels of repetition. 5. et al.. The second method would appear to be the opposite of learning by doing. Yet. 378). Increased automaticity has been conceived in terms of converting declarative knowledge into procedural knowledge (Anderson. 5. in good measure. 1999. In fact. 2004). This method of skill development involves (1) effortful exertion to improve performance. In the words of Joyce Carol Oates: "I consciously trained myself by writing novel after novel and always throwing them out when completed" (Plimpton. Bourdin & Fayol.

but writing educators need to be aware of the pitfalls in deliberate practice. Another advantage of spaced practice is that it maximizes long-term learning at the expense of immediate training performance (Schmidt & Bjork. Professional writers learn to compose for just a few hours per day at most. Writing apprehension and even writer's block can result from this misconceived kind of practice at the task (Boice. Typically. 1985). 2007). controlling for practice. professionalism of presentation. Practice can markedly improve college student writing when it is done in the context of a professionally relevant task domain that motivates efforts to learn. Learning by doing sounds simple enough. the child writes the same letter multiple times in blocked or massed practice for that letter. Even holistic grading in the absence of corrections and commentary can be highly labor intensive and subject to poor reliability in large classroom settings (Freedman & Calfee. spaced rather than massed practice is important for two reasons. organization. The feedback that students received was consistent and thorough. as decades of practice. with writing in the professionally relevant domain of greatest interest to the student. but transfer tests given 20 minutes or 24 hours after training reveal a clear advantage for the random. Ashbaugh. Clark.RONALD T. and the quality of the analysis. A common mistake of developing writers is to compose in marathon sessions or binges of massed practice that can exhaust and frustrate the writer. 1983). If instead the child practices a randomly chosen letter on each trial. 2004). the control group of students in other majors who did not take the writing intensive courses in their field slightly declined in performance from their second year to their senior year. compared with his early years. & Latimer. Accounting students who took business writing intensive two courses in their junior year (1 year of practice) and two more in their senior year (2 years of practice) gained significantly in their writing skills in comparison with an assessment taken at the end of their second year as sophomores. Findlay. spaced practice (Ste-Marie. including grading of grammatical conventions. For example. The writing assignments in the treatment group were designed to challenge the students by requiring that they write as accounting professionals for a professional audience. 1992). His production of books follows the power function that one would expect from the effects of pure practice (Ohlsson. then training performance suffers some. technical accuracy of the accounting. By sharp contrast. 1992). the learning does not transfer as effectively to a different task in the future in comparison with spaced practice. Johnstone. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 18 an author. Consider the familiar practice regimen used to teach young children handwriting skills. Feedback from an instructor to a student is often measured in days and even weeks rather than minutes . but on a highly consistent daily schedule and students should be trained in the same fashion (Kellogg & Raulerson. Although high levels of training performance can be obtained with mass practice. Providing individually tailored feedback is a timely manner is another serious problem in designing effective writing practice. and Warfield (2002) found that superior writing skills correlated reliably with the degree of repeated practice and.

A second core feature is Vygotsky's (1978) concept of the zone of proximal development. which focuses learners on tasks that stretch their current capacities so as to reach for growth. The commercially available systems called e-rater and Intelligent Essay Assessor are two examples. Apprenticeship underscores the centrality of social learning by observation of the mentor. 5. benefits from a cognitive apprenticeship approach in which a mentor provides a model for social learning (Rogoff. in a study on learning to revise texts. The best intervention came from observing readers who responded to one's own written text plus receiving additional written feedback (Couzijn & Rijlaarsdam. Recent advances in cognitive science and computational linguistics offer the intriguing possibility of automated essay scoring to provide reliable. It involves the learner in guided participation whereby a mentor or coach helps the novice to work through the task at hand. there is nothing natural about learning to read and write in the way that learning to speak is part and parcel of normal cognitive development. writing educators have not embraced these systems as even aids to instructors trying to provide effective feedback to developing writers. Finally. the learner deliberately practices in order to reduce the momentary demands of the cognitive processes underlying performance. cognitive apprenticeship features learning by observing instead of learning by doing. Next. Third. Learning by observation has a unique advantage from the point of view that writing overloads executive attention. One final illustration makes clear that deliberate practice and cognitive apprenticeship can be readily integrated in writer training. The acquisition of cultural practices. The essays in a book edited by Ericsson and Haswell (2006) question the validity of automated essay scoring and argue against its acceptance in the field. and individualized feedback (Shermis & Bernstein. then are those that lie within the zone of proximal development. the learner is able to perform at a higher level than would be possible when working alone. By working under a mentor's guidance. then.5 Cognitive apprenticeship As noted at the outset. such as preparing a preliminary outline first. In Vygotsky's terms. For example. Thus far. In observing a mentor. For example. the student can focus attention on the model's behavior instead of attending to the cognitive processes and motor execution needed to do the task (Rijlaarsdam et al. 2003). immediate. Schunk & Zimmerman (1997) formulated a four step training regimen with the explicit goal of fostering selfregulation. much larger effect sizes were obtained when the writers learned by observing readers instead of doing revision themselves. the learner tries to emulate the behavior of the model. Peer feedback and delayed feedback by instructors remain the most commonly used methods. however. 2005). a mentor might focus the attention of the learner on a manageable subgoal.19 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH and hours. learning precedes development in the sense that the environment induces and supports students to learn beyond their current level of development. It begins with observation of a model's actions. such as writing. 1990). . Cognitive apprenticeship entails the following features. 1996). The best learning tasks..

. say. actively guided students in how to solve content and rhetorical problems. KELLOGG ‚ TRAINING WRITING SKILLS | 20 Through this reduction.32). A recent meta-analysis of writing instruction for adolescents supports the tenets of cognitive apprenticeship (Graham & Perin. memory. and thinking.82 overall).involves routinely and adeptly juggling multiple representations in working memory and coordinating numerous interactions among multiple writing processes. The writing intervention data from Zimmerman & Kitsantas (2002) show that observational learning from a model can produce large effect sizes.6 Two paradoxes In light of the arguments raised here. there are two facts about writing development across the lifespan that would appear to be paradoxical. The point to be made here is that learning by observing can be combined effectively with learning by doing at a different step of the training regimen. and editing text so that students can eventually use them on their own also produced large effect sizes (.RONALD T. 2007). presumably because it renders more automatic sentence generation and reviewing. which had only a modest beneficial effect (. it is helpful to begin by summarizing the central theme of the paper.75) and mentor assigned goals for the writing project (. Finally.achieved only at professional levels of expertise . and provided peer feedback.50) following explicit instruction also reliably improves writing skill. and knowledgecrafting. revising. The development of writing skills arguably requires decades of learning and moves through increasingly sophisticated stages of knowledge-telling. These practice-oriented approaches to learning (the Environmental Mode in Hillock's terms) were four times as effective as the Presentational Mode of listening to lectures about how to write. The most advanced stage . To see this point. Serious written composition simultaneously challenges the human capacities for language.1995) found that the most effective interventions assigned well-structured writing tasks with clear objectives. Mastering these techniques through explicit instruction and practice contrasts with simply engaging students in. executive attention becomes free to control cognitive processes. Two forms of scaffolding resulted in large effect sizes: peer assistance (. 5. However. knowledge-transforming. Different ways of explicitly and systematically teaching students strategies for planning. prewriting activities. Some results of an earlier meta-analysis also can be interpreted as supportive of a cognitive apprenticeship approach. when feedback is provided then the effect of practice can combine with the effect of the model to yield truly impressive gains in writing skill. Hillocks (1986. Practice at sentence combining (.70). with additional practice at adapting performance to changes in internal and external conditions the self-regulation characteristic of expert performance is achieved.

In their view. but they are far more prevalent than precocious writers. reach their maximum by the third decade of life and noticeably fall off by the fifth or sixth decade. To expect a 5 year old to write like a college-student is to expect the impossible. Of course. A second point of resolution is to take note that precocity in writing is extremely rare (Feldman. How is it possible. Consistent with this view. It is well established that working memory and executive functioning. 70s. for example. lessening the demands placed on the declining functioning of short-term working memory in the first place. The first paradox. knowledge-crafting place a heavy demand on working memory resources. a five year old prolific writer. domain-specific learning. Unlike knowledge-transforming. possibly because cultures support very early cognitive apprenticeships in these other domains more commonly than in writing. 1993). in particular. and reviewing continues to decline as a result throughout the lifespan. and training. then. executive attention must be available for self-regulation and this presumably cannot happen without adequate maturation. along with an even steeper decline in the index of processing speed (Kaufman & Lichtenberger. . and even 80s? One answer may be that they continue deliberate practice and the effort of planning.21 | JOURNAL OF WRITING RESEARCH Both knowledge-transforming and. Of interest. Edmunds and Noel (2003) documented a case of literary precocity in Geoffrey. The second paradox is that older professional writers are fully capable of composing at high levels of skill despite that their short-term working memory system is likely in decline. who would appear to lack not only sufficient maturation but also a high degree of domain-specific learning and decades of practicing writing to lessen the burden on working memory. In particular. is literary precocity in the form of advanced writing skill in very young children. for professional writers to continue as highly effective composers of text well into their 60s. freeing executive attention for higher level processes and a precocious rate of development as a writer. generation. then. there was no evidence of a preoccupation with trying to modify the text to express the author’s ideas more accurately. one might equally expect a deterioration of writing ability. Yet. if for no other reason than the frontal lobes supporting executive function have not yet matured. The working memory index of the WAIS-III. as working memory begins to decline with advanced age in older adults. Geoffrey had achieved the stage of knowledge-transforming in that he could take source information and work with it so as to yield novel connections and a novel story. drops substantially after the age of 45-54. precocious mathematicians. Geoffrey learned to type at a very young age and showed early mastery of the mechanics of writing. But did Geoffrey really show knowledge-transforming at age five? A possible resolution of this case with the theoretical argument raised here is that Geoffrey’s text revealed no editing at all. 1999). especially. Geoffrey’s writings most certainly reflected a higher level of thinking and planning than would normally be found in the rudimentary knowledge-telling of a five year old. musicians. Moreover. A second answer may be that older writers come to rely more on retrieval from long-term working memory. and chess players are also atypical.

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